The Science Behind Vacations: Why we Need a Break

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The serenity will rejuvenate you (FLICKR/ wsilver)

Let's face it, you hate that person who comes back into the office after a vacation with a sunny smile and a deep tan. They feel rejuvenated, refreshed, reborn, but you just wish they would return to their cubicle and be quiet. But, before you go resenting them and their new lease on life, they may be onto something.

Research has discovered what we knew all along- we NEED a vacation.

More and more experts are urging workers to take full advantage of their vacation days to go someplace new, lie on a beach, read a book and do absolutely nothing- and not feel bad about it! Turns out, there's some reasoning behind rediscovering the pleasure of napping in a hammock, swimming in the ocean and walking through the woods. These breaks from our everyday life have shown to be profoundly healing to our physiological and physical selves. 

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Discover nature and rediscover yourself (FLICKR/ digika)

Vacations, whatever form they take, are a chance to unwind, regroup and take a step back to examine your life from a new place with a new perspective. Traveling, especially abroad or to a place we have never been before, allows us to temporarily leave our old life behind and adopt new customs, new ways of thinking and looking at the world that can crossover into our everyday lives.

Many people need the time and space away from what they experience every day in order to recognize harmful or self-destructive patterns in their life. Taking time to get away and visit a new place can highlight distinct lifestyle choices; when you are able to directly compare your life choices with others, you can come to a better understanding of your beliefs, practices and actions. By adding this perspective, you can see what you do like, and what, perhaps, you should change.

Another benefit to vacations is forcing yourself out of the daily rut that you have likely gotten into. Going to a new place can wake you up and shake up your sights, smells, tastes, and feelings. Experiencing all these new senses can help you to better appreciate the surroundings in your day to day life. Vacations can also help prevent burnout at home; by regularly taking time to relax, you can prevent that overworked, under-rested feeling you know too well.

And what better way to experience these new senses than to simply let them wash over you as you sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing. When you do go on a vacation, take a break. Being idle is good for the mind, body and spirit. It is restorative, rejuvenating and, much like taking a long sleep, invigorates you to return to your life fully charged. A good vacation can help us to reconnect with ourselves, operating as a vehicle for self-discovery and helping us get back to feeling our best. This means no blackberrys, no Internet and no working! You can't take a break from work if you bring it with you.

Aside from your physiological wellbeing, your physical state can benefit from a few days off as well.

Research has uncovered a link between stress at work and overall wellbeing - and it's not pretty! Trouble at work can lead to headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, and can even cause a stroke.

The best way to combat these symptoms is to slow down the pace and take some time away from work. Vacations can help keep us healthy by lowering our stress levels that can lead to other problems.  The effects of a good get-away can last for weeks, as some research has found that after just three days of vacation, subjects had less physical complaints, slept better and were in an overall better mood than before the vacation. These effects were still present up to five weeks later!

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A tiny umbrella for a tiny vacation (FLICKR/ Jstar1223)

If you can't block out a whole week or two, try to take a weekend to unplug, rent a cabin in the woods and go fishing, rent a boat on a lake, or pitch a tent in a quiet park area- anything to get out of your own head.

If you can't make it out of your house, here are a few ways to make your stay-cation an oasis:

Turn off your phone/ computer/ T.V.- the world can wait, if only for a few hours.

Get outside- take a walk, ride your bike, play with your kids, do everything you're too tired to do during the work week.

Don't knit pick- put down the vacuum cleaner and back away from the sponge, the dust will still be there tomorrow.

Hang out with me, myself and I- spend a day by yourself, doing exactly what makes you happy, whether that's sleeping till noon, doing the crossword or reading a book- do it all in peace and quiet.

Learn something- do something you've never done before, the new experience can shake up your routine and maybe even give you a new hobby.

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